David Shenk in Delancey Place:
“‘It’s not that I’m so smart,’ Albert Einstein once said. ‘It’s just that I stay with problems longer.’
“Einstein’s simple statement is a clarion call for all who seek greatness, for themselves or their children. In the end, persistence is the difference between mediocrity and enormous success.
“The big question is, can it be taught? Can persistence be nurtured by parents and mentors?
“Boston College’s Ellen Winner insists not. Persistence, she argues, ‘must have an inborn, biological component.’ But the evidence indicates otherwise. The brain circuits that modulate a person’s level of persistence are plastic — they can be altered. ‘The key is intermittent reinforcement,’ says Robert Clonjnger, a Washington University biologist. ‘A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.’